Life sometimes pulls us through long periods of adversity.
But when a few consecutive years turn out particularly awful, like the pandemic years of our time, the future looks bleak. Is there a way to overcome this negative outlook?
We can make our tomorrows better and happier, even when our today has turned sour. It is a question of time, resilience, and knowing the right strategies.
In present times, psychologists who study happiness science have been running research on what makes humans happy during adverse periods. And they have found strategies that promise a better and happier future.
So, even if today looks bad, it does not mean your coming days will have to be the same. Read on.
7 Happiness Strategies To Make A Better Tomorrow
To have a better and happier life in the future, the right strategies you need have to be both practical and helpful. These tactics and tips are both.
Here we bring together 6 scientific and 1 philosophical strategies to help you create a brighter tomorrow. With these, however bleak your today is, you can always make your tomorrow brighter and happier.
And now, let’s dive into the seven strategies for a brighter future:
Strategy #1. Create Happiness Goals
Start your journey to a better tomorrow by setting some happiness goals. This is the first step. And this begins tonight.
Each night, today, before you go to bed, schedule at least one happiness activity for the next day. Remember to set a time to carry out the activity.
And each morning, as soon as you get up, take a look at your agenda. Then set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself.
It might be a short period of mindfulness meditation, a jog in the park, or calling up an old friend. You could choose from any of these 20 happiness-boosting activities.
Three 3 practical tips:
- Meet those friends and people who are happy and motivated and make you feel energized and inspired.
- Make sure your happiness goals aren’t in conflict with each other. If you want to master piano and boxing both at the same time, you’re setting up conflicting goals. One needs nimble fingers while the other needs fierce fists.
- Start with a simple goal, such as watching a funny movie, or a funny video clip.
Strategy #2. Build A Positive Mindset
A positive mindset means tackling the challenges of daily living with a positive outlook. It makes way for creating a sunny hereafter.
Positive thinking doesn’t mean you bury your head in the sand and think the bad life events won’t find you.
Rather, people with a positive mindset know negative thoughts have a place, and trying to deny or dismiss them is a vain attempt.
What’s necessary is you notice the negative thoughts and emotions, but don’t hang on to them.
Instead, you spend more time seeing yourself and your abilities in a positive light.
A positive mindset helps you cope better with stress. With a positive attitude, you begin to see life’s challenges as opportunities. It also helps you build a stance of resilience for your future life.
You can learn to turn your negative outlook into positive thinking with a little practice. Try the simple tips below.
Three practical tips:
- Start your day with positive affirmations, and repeat them 3-5 times throughout the day.
- Focus on the present moment instead of getting bogged down with overthinking or worries.
- Reframe your failures and hardships as strength-building experiences.
Strategy #3. Think Like A Stoic
Stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy found in 301 BCE, assumed the goal of life was Eudaimonia — a term that meant not only happiness, but also virtue, morality, and meaningful life.
The most powerful Stoic to ever walk this earth was Marcus Aurelius.
He was a king and regarded as the last of the Five Good Emperors. Under him, the Roman empire was guided by virtue and wisdom.
Stoicism is back in the popular imagination in recent times, and people all over the world are once again looking to follow the Stoic principles in their lives.
Stoicism helps you create a better tomorrow, and not stay moored in your past regrets.
It says we must learn from our past mistakes, but without wallowing in guilt or regret.
For these feelings actually don’t serve us any more than making us feel bad about things we can’t change.
The Stoics asked you to observe your emotions from a distance. They accepted their natural emotions and desires but chose not to react or be overwhelmed by them.
While they loved other people from the heart but were not disturbed by their losses and misfortunes. They treated their own adversities with the same rationale.
They always kept in mind we do not and can not control the events outside ourselves. So, instead of trying to control them, we should try to be in charge of our response to those events.
They neither let the difficult times crush them, nor let the moments of triumph intoxicate them. In defeat and victory, they remained the same.
Another important thing was this: they did not blame anyone for their circumstances. The Stoics took full responsibility for their actions and behavior.
Here’s a short article on How To Practice Stoicism As A Beginner.
If you want to imbibe this philosophy into your life, get this Teach Yourself book by Donald Robertson: Stoicism and the Art of Happiness.
Three practical tips:
- Whatever you do today, give it your 100%. Marcus Aurelius said, “… approach each task as if it is your last, giving up every distraction, emotional subversion of reason.”
- Check yourself throughout the day by asking, “Are my emotions getting the better of me?” When you’re a Stoic, you are “no longer pulled like a puppet by every impulse,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote.
- Detach from the expectation and attach yourself to the action. Do everything with your full attention on the process, without bothering about the results. Once again, the words of Marcus Aurelius: “Perform each task at hand with precise analysis, unaffected dignity, human sympathy, and dispassionate justice.”
Strategy #4. Practice Gratitude
Positive psychology suggests practicing gratitude can help you in many healthy ways. For one, it can bring more positive emotions, resilience, and compassion into your life. It takes just about two months of practicing gratitude to start seeing greater empathy and happiness in your life.
When we’re more consciously thankful for what we already have in our life, we increase our happiness.
When we’re thankful to people in our lives for what they do for us, we not only make their days brighter, but also ours happier.
We should thank people more, according to Robert Emmons, the world’s foremost researcher on the subject. He says focusing our gratitude on people rather than circumstances or physical items can boost the benefits of gratitude.
Being grateful can make you happy, and being happier can then make you more grateful. It’s a positive loop.
Here’s an excellent white paper on The Science of Gratitude by the Greater Good Science Center.
A few ways to feel more gratitude are: count your blessings; thank someone in person or in your mind; write thank-you notes to your friends and colleagues; keep a gratitude journal, and fill it in every night.
Three practical tips:
- Volunteer for a charitable act. This comes from your intention to be thankful for what you received in life, and pay back to society.
- Practice the powerful Three Good Things happiness exercise.
- Get a large container and make it your Gratitude Jar. Now, whenever you feel grateful for something, write it on a small piece of paper and drop it in. Then open the jar once every few months to re-live your moments of thankfulness.
Strategy #5. Savor The Present
The act of “stopping to smell the roses” is called savoring. Savoring (The Language and Social Psychology of Savoring) is an established construct in positive psychology that refers to the ability to recognize and appreciate joyful life experiences.
Four of the commonest types of savoring are:
- Luxuriating — feeling pleasure
- Marveling — feeling the power of awe
- Basking — feeling pride
- Thanksgiving — feeling gratitude
When we savor, we fully experience our positive experiences. We enjoy it and extend it. But we don’t seem to do savoring often. This is why: we multitask a lot.
Humans, however, are not made for multitasking. Actually, when we work at too many things together, we keep switching our attention from one to another.
It exhausts the brain, and doesn’t let us linger on one thing to enjoy it enough.
Savoring is anti-multitasking. The first rule of savoring is to uni-task. When your mind is used to you doing one thing at a time, you become better at relishing the experiences as they happen.
Those who take time to appreciate the little things in life, are happier than the rest of us, as research shows.
Focusing on the good things in our lives and appreciating those things can take less than a week to make us happier.
The richest experiences of savoring involve awareness of the good events from the past and the future, as well as in the present.
Three practical tips:
- Sit back in a relaxed posture and think of a past event that made you laugh out wild. Hold on to the moment for a few minutes as you relive the joy.
- Take a small detour into a park and observe the butterflies or dragonflies flitting from flower to flower.
- Tell yourself, and the world, what made you feel great today. Let your joy show without a bother.
Strategy #6. Start Saying “No” More Often
People ask you to do things for them, and you find it hard to refuse. The 4 common reasons that stop you from saying “No” are:
- your upbringing goes against it
- your social etiquette stops you from it
- you’re afraid the other person might think negatively of you
- you think the other person will not help you out when you’re in need
If you’re always trying to please — or not offend — others by not saying No, you’re suffocating your own happiness.
For fear, that you might hurt them with your No, you end up hurting yourself by saying Yes.
Each time you agree against your wish, you take your own time, means, and energy and give those away. And with them go those things you could have done to make yourself happier.
As an hour of listening to a peaceful piece on a piano, a movie date with your daughter, or some deep work on your passion project.
To save yourself from doing things you don’t really want to do, you must learn to refuse others more often.
Three practical tips:
- Just blurt it out. Tell them without batting an eyelid you won’t be able to do it.
- Postpone to a later time. Let them know you need time to think about it, and will inform them when you have reached a decision.
- Justify with a reason. Give them a non-negotiable reason while making it clear you can’t change your plans.
Strategy #7. Be More Forgiving
The first rule of forgiving is this: Forgiveness is for the forgiver.
By forgiving, you’re clearing out mental space for your better tomorrow. You’re forgiving someone because you want your peace. You’re not doing it to condone or absolve them — that job is for the higher powers.
Holding a grudge is like holding a fiery coal in your fist; you’re only burning your palms.
But when you forgive, you drop that hot coal you held with the intention to throw it at your offender, and save your hand.
Forgiving protects you against the ill effects of stress, as research (How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health) finds. It can make you happier.
People who forgive themselves and others have better immunity and healthier hearts. In close relationships, forgiving makes the bond with the other person warmer and stronger.
Three practical tips:
- Forgive someone close, or had been close, and make it clear you do not hold them in hatred or anger anymore.
- Write a letter of forgiveness to someone who has wronged you, and destroy the letter in the end.
- Forgive yourself for a past mistake you have been persecuting yourself for a long while.
If you always had it hard to forgive yourself, read this: 7 Steps To Forgive Yourself.
When Tomorrow Doesn’t Look Any Better
You might be having a bad day or a bad week.
Every few hours, your mind wanders to one of those unpleasant times. You look around to check if others can see your face twist into sadness. No one’s bothered about you, so your eyes well up.
And it does not help at all when you get told the same old “you’re not the only one having problems in life” cliché — even by your own mind.
Everyone has crises in life, and no one can change the past. That’s okay, but right now what matters is You. The only worthwhile question is how are you going to get out of it? How are you going to make your tomorrow, and many tomorrows, better?
Martin Seligman, Father of Positive Psychology, says the pessimists tend to believe bad events will last long, will undermine everything they do, and they are the ones at fault.
These are the 3 P’s that hinder our growth after adversity:
- Permanence — this tough time will last forever
- Pervasiveness — this will affect all areas of our life
- Personalization — this affects us most of all other people
For making our tomorrow better, we can learn to push back these 3 P’s that hinder our growth of resilience in adversity.
Aristotle, in his theory of happiness, held humans do everything to attain something good. He believed they do so because attaining goodness ultimately makes them happier. And he felt the only way to achieve true happiness is through good moral character.
Every art and every inquiry, and similarly, every action and pursuit is thought to aim at some good, and for this reason, the good has been declared to be that at which all things aim.— Aristotle
Achieving authentic happiness in a better tomorrow takes a bit of patience and practice. You can do it.
Start with one of the seven strategies. Note how you feel during and after carrying out the strategy. If it makes you feel better, then carry on doing it. Add more strategies at each step of your journey to a vibrant future.
In closing, we would like to mention three more practical tips to raise your spirits today and tomorrow:
- Exercise — it makes you happier
- Meditate — it helps you rise above uncertainty
- Set a daily schedule — it keeps your day well planned
With these tips and strategies, in time, you’ll have many better tomorrows, and a happier self!
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy — medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes on mental well-being, happiness, positive psychology, and philosophy (especially Stoicism).
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